Sunday, April 22, 2007

Emergency Survival Kit Thoughts

I've been thinking about what should be in a survival kit that all of my "sports" take with them on one of my trips. Note that this is not my survival kit which will be more extensive. It needs to compact down into a small bundle and should include at least the required items in the orange "You alone in the Maine woods" book.

NOTE: this little survival kit is in addition to the whistle and compass I'll put on a lanyard around every client's neck

Emergency Survival Kit contents
these items are deemed mandatory in the orange book:
knife (you can use this for many things including splitting firewood and making fuzz sticks)
waterproof matches
spare compass
spare whistle
required medicines and spare glasses
survival food (I need to look for something better than energy bars)

items not deemed mandatory in the orange book that I think should be in the kit"
waterproof firestarters
band aids and basic first aid kit
led headlamp with spare batteries
map of the area
copy of "You alone in the Maine woods" orange book
pencil stub
flagging tape (long strips that can be hung in trees around the camp"
space blanket
signal mirror
water bottle with built in purifier
parachute cord

Other ideas?

Saturday, April 14, 2007

Contoocook River Class II

Despite the fact that we went to bed late, I woke up at 4:15 and then about every 15 minutes until the first of the group got up. Most everyone arrived early at the church for the 7:30 start. We had an ample continental breakfast served by a full kitchen staff. We put on our paddle gear and assembled. We were given a name tag and a ribbon. The ribbons helped to insure that the right people and boats were shuttled to the right place. I was matched up to my instructor Dick Morin, a whitewater paddler with decades of experience.

We discussed paddle strokes and water safety. Our job is to get the person out and to shore then save the canoe and any gear. We shuttled to the river for training. Student to teacher ratio was nearly 1:1 and there were many more staff members in little kayaks which provided safety and support roles. They zoomed all around setting up a 2 balloon slalom courses with balloons and brick anchors on strings while we discussed paddle strokes on the shore. They looked like little ducks all swarming around on the river.

Once we hit the water, there were additional rescue staff members on the shore taking pictures mostly but quick to assist with any swimmers. I was in the open canoe tandem class. We broke into groups of 4 canoes so there were 4 students and 4 instructors in my group. There was at least one other group of tandem canoes and quite a few solo canoe folks. The rest were all whitewater kayak people.

Dick held the canoe on shore while I demonstrated strokes to him in both the bow and the stern. Then we put into the water and I got to demonstrate bow and stern strokes while we went up and down the river avoiding strainers and other natural features. When he was satisfied I wouldn’t take him for a swim, we practiced on the balloon slalom course. That was fun.

Then all the canoeists got together to play canoe soccer. Basically we broke into 2 groups- 8 red canoes against the other colors (4 green, 2 tan, 1 orange, 1 blue). Some of these canoes were tandem and some were solo. At first Dick and I hung back and played defense. Then he encouraged me to get aggressive and we started ramming boats. He steered us right into the action and we were right in the jumble of boats. It was a fairly safe way to practice strokes in a “panic” situation. I got splashed many times and we managed to accumulate an inch or so of water in the canoe. Only one person went for a swim and it was a solo canoeist that got rammed by other canoes. The game immediately stopped while we “rescued” her in the 3 feet of water.

While I had a total blast playing this game, I was REALLY glad I wasn’t playing the game in a boat that I owned. I guess whitewater paddlers aren’t afraid to bang their boats around a bit. This was a great way to get to know my partner and by this point I felt comfortable and ready to hit the whitewater.

We loaded the boats and shuttled back to the church for lunch. The warm water had been a nice treat when we took a break mid-morning. Now, as I sat eating cheese and crackers, and drinking vegetable juice, I realized that I could have just brought hot soup in the thermos. It sure would have been tasty!

My wetsuit was very warm and moist and the nylon splash suit had blocked most of the water but I was still quite moist. During lunch I pulled down the farmer John wetsuit so that my tshirt could dry. I had to leave my splash pants on since I was too lazy to take off my paddle shoes. In retrospect, since we ate and then talked for a couple hours, it would have been time well spent to take off my splash pants.

We ate lunch, taked about canoeing informally, then assembled for river training. We talked about rapids and how bubbles in the water cause the boat to become less buoyant. We discussed how obstacles such as rocks will appear in different water speeds and depths. We discussed scouting and best ways to “read” the river.

After lunch we shuttled up the Contoocook River. We needed to carry the 80lb canoe across a swampy area and then slide it down a snowy slope. Though Dick had 30 years on me, there was no question in my mind that I was slowing us down. Once on the river, we decided I’d be in the stern, and practiced peeling out of the eddies and eddying out into the eddy. We ferried across the river and were ready to peel out into fast rapids when the boat just ahead of us flipped instantly while doing the same maneuver. Dick yelled “boat over”, said to lean and we quickly peeled out as planned and went on to provide rescue support downstream. I was a bit apprehensive at doing the exact same thing when the other canoe had flipped but we were fine.

We headed into sets of rapids and it never seemed to fail that Dick would pick some obscure eddy and we’d hit it just right and eddy out. It was really great having such a strong paddler in the bow and being able to stop in the middle of a maelstrom. After we took on some water during a rough section, we pulled up on shore to bail out and I switched to the bow. We ferried across into the rapids and then into an eddy, we then surfed back up into the middle of the rapids and ferried/surfed out into the rapids where we peeled out and back down the river. It was very clear to me what a class 3 or 4 whitewater paddler is capable of. Though I admit I was scared, it was amazing what we could do in the canoe.

All the other rapids paled in comparison and we arrived at the takeout point just below a covered bridge. Dick caught a shuttle back to his vehicle where we put in and I caught a ride back to the church where I changed into warm, dry clothes. I had put on a fleece jacket after lunch against Dick’s advice and I had been too warm. The basic gear set he recommended the night before seems to be just the right combination for paddling this time of year.

We had appetizers and then a huge dinner. Dick introduced me to his wife and we were able to compare notes. They are a very nice couple and I hope I can paddle with them in the future. Soon after, they announced that they were canceling the Sunday portion of the class due to the large blizzard that was headed our way. We discussed future tripping options with the club and headed our separate ways around 8PM. I headed Northeast and arrived home at 11:45 PM totally exhausted and sore. I can’t wait to paddle with these folks again.

Southwest to the Whitewater Class

NH AMC Paddlers

Friday I left the house around lunch and headed Southwest down to North Conway where I went to EMS and LL Bean Outlet looking for the last couple items on my gear list. I was planning to wear a bike helmet and I knew it would be cold so I wanted a hat. I had seen one in the NRS catalog that looked perfect called a Mystery Sea Hood. LL Beans doesn’t carry it but EMS does. EMS in North Conway didn’t have it in stock but they just got one in Concord. I decided I’d stop at EMS in Concord to pick it up.

I headed South on 16 and took a slight detour to 28 to Wolfeboro Falls and stopped in to see Tim Smith of Jack Mountain Bushcraft.

His road had plenty of slippery snow on it and I ended up helping a car out so that I could park. I walked down the hill to see Tim’s place. He has a great setup with a nice large barn where he is currently stretching canvas over a canoe. We discussed reflector oven designs, cooking, trips, etc. over coffee. He gave me some sourdough starter and I headed South to Concord about 4:30. I got to EMS and LL Bean in Concord about 5:30.

I found an aluminum dutch oven made by GSI Outdoors on sale at the LL Bean outlet. This is a great find as I was unaware of anyone making aluminum dutch ovens anymore. The aluminum models are a lot lighter and more practical for canoe tripping than the traditional cast iron.

At EMS they had my hat in stock though it was more money than I wanted to spend. As I was making my purchases, the EMS clerk told me it would take about 45 minutes to get to Henniker from Concord. He advised that I drive South on 93 then north on 84 to get to Henniker. It is a straight shot on 202 but on a Friday night, travel would have been slow.

I made it to the class in Henniker 10 minutes before class started. I couldn’t believe the number of people in the Church meeting hall- there were almost 50 students! We discussed plans for the weekend and the storm that might mess up our plans for Sunday. We then covered basic river safety, how cold the water was, and what to do when you take a swim. We discussed proper cold weather gear. The instructor was Paul who has been whitewater paddling for over 40 years. His neoprene shirt was fringed with red, white, and blue and looked straight out of the 70s! His favorite wool shirt was a yellow plaid with huge holes in the back. It was good to hear that he felt that the traditional and durable materials are still OK. It was also good to see that he had gotten many years of service from his gear.

We then broke into our groups for a gear check. I was a bit skeptical since our intro class had brought be way over prepared with gear. My leader put more than half of my gear in a pile and said I’d be fine. I was left with my coolmax tshirt, techwick boxers, NRS farmer John wetsuit, polypro shirt, wool socks, paddle boots, neoprene gloves, and my nylon jacket and pants. I put the rest of the stuff in a bag and decided to keep it around in case I went for a swim.

Class dismissed and I grabbed a ride to a fellow student’s house. There were 3 other students staying with him (all related to him in some way). They are planning a trip to the St. John in May and this class was their training plan. We stayed up until 11:30 talking all about rivers, canoes, gear, etc. Finally we all just went to sleep on the couches.

Wednesday, April 11, 2007

Cold Water Gear Test

My NRS Farmer John wetsuit arrived in the mail from LL Bean yesterday afternoon. I put on my polypropylene union suit. Then I put on my wetsuit. Then I put on wool socks and my paddle shoes. I discovered the paddle shoes wouldn't fit over my wetsuit but the wetsuit would zip over the paddle shoes. Everything fits very snugly. I was unable to pull the NRS Rio pants over the paddle shoes, so when I'm actually on the river, I'll need to remember to put the paddle shoes on last.

I filled the tub with cold water and tested my gear by jumping in. Amazingly enough, the paddle shoes stayed dry for 10 to 15 seconds. Then the zipper let in a slow flow of very cold water. Once the water warmed up though, my feet were still toasty warm.

I lay down in the tub and the cold water seeped into the wetsuit. It was shocking how cold it felt. I lay still and waited for the water to warm up. I was very comfortable except for the most sensitive parts which remained ICE cold even after waiting 5 minutes for things to warm up. So I'll need to look for some sort of wool underwear or some other solution. All in all though, I feel the gear test was a huge success. I really like the wetsuit and it seems to fit. The whitewater class this weekend should be a lot of fun.

Saturday, April 7, 2007

LL Bean

I went to LL Beans yesterday to pick up an NRS wetsuit for next weeks whitewater class in Henniker, NH. This week instead of the semi-helpful "expert" in the canoe section, the clerk was extremely helpful and a complete expert. He recommended a dry suit but wasn't pushy. He asked where I was going for trips and where I'd been for trips. He gave me all sorts of useful websites like Piragis Northwoods Company. He was disappointed Beans didn't have my wetsuit in stock, personally called their catalog store, adjusted the price since the catalog was more expensive, asked the catalog associate when it would arrive at my house, and then handed me the phone to complete the order. He suggested that I order two and return one in case it was the wrong size. He also assured me that if for some reason the wetsuit didn't arrive on time, I could call him and borrow a Kokata Meridian Dry Suit for the trip. Now that is service. I like Beans but this was the first time I really felt one of their associates had really gone out of their way to be helpful. What a place to work- this guy loves what he does and does what he loves. He's not getting rich but he was happy.

I'm still putting together all the gear I'll need for next weekend's trip. I need to decide if I'm going to buy a new fleece union suit or if I'll use my old itchy polypropelene base layer. I'm looking at Immersion Research and NRS union suits. I really like the Immersion Research design but I can't find one locally to try it on.

Sunday, April 1, 2007

Oral Exam Scheduled

You may remember that I sent in my Maine Guide exam application on March 7. On March 31, I received a letter with a scheduled oral exam date on it in April- not a bad turn around time. I just checked for an official description of what is on the oral exam and here is what I found at the state website:

The oral exam will cover General client care issues, Weather related questions, First aid, Safety, Ethics (legal business practices and behavior of clients), Aquatic vegetation, Clothing, Sanitation, Watercraft laws/rules, Map & compass, and Lost person scenario. You will also be asked to demonstrate your ability to work with a map and compass and to explain to the Board what steps you might take in the event that a person becomes lost while in your care as a Guide.

After successful completion of the oral exam, you will be scheduled for the written exam....